As you know, there are a lot of new buzz words in social media. Inbound marketing, a phrase coined by Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan, is one of them. The truth is, Inbound Marketing is not new. According to management expert and marketing patriarch Peter F. Drucker, its core concept has been discussed and implemented since the late 1800′s. However, there is a topic within Inbound Marketing that is relatively new and worth examining a little further. It’s called Conversational Marketing. The concept is simple: Businesses having conversations with customers through social media.

 While the idea seems like it should be popular, widespread use is not. Many companies are apprehensive about using social media to connect with their customers.

Common reasons include:

  • It’s new to them
  • They’re not sure how to start
  • They’re afraid of negative comments

To ease concerns about Conversational Marketing, you can follow some fairly easy guidelines. In 2006, John Battelle, founder of Federated Media Publishing, outlined the best practices for Conversational Marketing in what he called the “Golden Rules of Conversational Media.” The growth of social media makes Batelle’s “rules” even more valuable today:

  • Conversation over dictation. Instead of delivering a message to consumers, have a discussion with them. Start and join conversations.
  • Platform over distribution. What matters is how you use a platform to create effective interactions with customers.
  • Service over product. In conversational marketing, you’re providing a service, developing a continuing dialogue whose course through the Web is unknown. The more value it adds to the ecosystem, the more it will be shared, amplified and celebrated.
  • Iteration over perfection. Good first drafts and speedy responses to consumer dialog will always trump lawyered corporate speak.
  • Engagement over consumption. Simple consumption isn’t very interesting — what’s important is the context of that consumption, and the actions taken afterwards (liking, re-tweeting, sharing, linking, clicking). The objective is to become a trusted daily companion, not a once-a-year-during-the-Super-Bowl visitor.

The key is understanding your consumer and then generating remarkable content (that is worth making a remark about). A great example of engaging customers via social media is OPEN Forum created by American Express. Funkandworrebe OPEN is an online community that allows users to exchange insights and build connections to help power small business success. OPEN has been a huge success in terms of user engagement. According to Jason Rudman (Content Strategist for OPEN Forum) the traffic on OPENForum.com has grown roughly 350% year over year without the use of paid search engine marketing.

Conversational media/marketing is steadily moving to the forefront of how companies interact with their customers and peers. It is determining how successful their online presence is. Relevant valuable content and opportunities that give voice to your customers are at the core of conversational marketing.